Senior Pastor…Why Aren’t You Singing?


singDear Non-Singing Pastor,

We depend on you as a primary worship leader for our congregation. We agree that your leadership centers more on worship through the Word and Table than through the music. And we understand and affirm that worship can’t be contained in one expression such as music.

But it is evident from Scripture that singing is a significant response to God’s revelation (Ps 63:5; Eph 5:19: Col 3:15-17). When writing about the future of Jerusalem, the minor prophet Zephaniah wrote, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph 3:17).

When the circumstances of life discourage us from verbalizing our songs, the Father surrounds us with songs of deliverance (Ps 32:7). And when we can’t find adequate words to express our love to the Father, Jesus as our worship leader sings with us (Heb 8:1-2; 2:12). So if the Father is singing over us and Jesus is singing with us, we have to ask how you can keep from singing?

When you choose not to sing it causes us to wonder if you really view the musical worship elements as an appetizer before the main course or the warm-up band before the headliner. And when you study sermon notes instead of singing it gives the impression you are unprepared, reminiscent of a freshman cramming for a final exam.

Pastor, we desire worship that is a continuous conversation with a variety of worship expressions instead of just stand-alone elements of music and preaching. So we long for you to teach and model active and fully engaged participatory worship instead of passively giving permission to others not to sing too.

So in humility we ask that you join us in full-throated singing so that all of our voices, including yours, might unite in communal utterances of praise, thanksgiving, confession, dedication, commitment, lament and response. And when this occurs our songs will communicate vertically and horizontally in a unified voice so compelling that it can’t possibly be silenced (Ps 30:12).


Your Singing Congregation


11 Responses to “Senior Pastor…Why Aren’t You Singing?”

  • Why Aren't Senior Pastors Singing? Says:

    […] This article originally appeared here. […]

  • Scott Says:

    Music is not a gift. You don’t need to be a talented singer to make a joyful noise to the Lord. If nothing else whisper or mouth the text with the rest of the congregation. Actively participate with your community of believers. You will be blessed.

  • Marie Says:

    This is so well-stated. Even if the pastor is a terrible singer, he can at least stand and mouth the words. The ones that bug me are those that sit through the entire service except to preach, and often go over their sermon notes. It comes off as an “I’m so above this” attitude. Our pastor is not a great singer; he’ll tell you right off that he’s a terrible singer. But he stands and sings with the congregation and is engaged in the music even though it’s not part of his skill set. He understands that he helps set an example for others with everything he does. The pastor can help set the tone for the entire service through his actions or inactions. When we have a pastor come in view of a call, that’s one of the things I watch on that Sunday–how is he interacting with the music portion of the service? Is he involved or completely disengaged with it? It says a lot to me about what kind of pastor he is.

  • Denise Says:

    My friends husband is the Dean of a Bible College, Biblical Teacher and seats the Wycliff Bible Translation Group. He also is an author of a well known book. I say all of this to express the fact that as much as he would love to sing, he is deaf. Yes, since birth. Look at all the Lord has blessed him with but the gift of singing is not one of those as either is the gift of hearing. To make a bold judgment that all Pastors who do not sing in worship are not supportive is attempting to judge someone’s heart and I do believe that is God’s area of expertise. I understand that when we are passionate about something we can become very “tunnel visioned”. I don’t believe we purposely look at others as unwilling to participate, but our vision becomes clouded by our passion to have everyone experience the beauty of song worship. We should keep in mind that worship is not only singing but dancing, praising with our hands, signing for the deaf and takes on many other forms in the scriptures. I am a worship leader so I do understand the passion. Our Pastor has a great voice but sometimes he just enjoys sitting on the platform with his eyes closed and listening to the harmonious sounds of song worship. It warms my heart to know that Pastor is being touched by God’s musical praise. I encourage you to look for other signs of worship being displayed.. Our eyes can deceive us as to the work God is doing on the inner man if we only look for the outer manifestations. Spoken with Christ”s Love!

  • Laurie Says:

    I know that some pastors do not have the gift of music, as stated in several of the comments above, but turning their mic off and joining in the joy of singing is a necessity. My father, not a pastor, but a man dedicated to Christ & faithful follower (and church goer) has the same issue as Christina’s dad, can carry a tune in a bucket, but can’t unload it! (loved that statement), but sings with all he has. He has often stated that God decided to give his gift of music to me…that is why he doesn’t have it anymore. There was an older gentleman in our congregation that always ended up sitting near my parents and understood dad. One day he came with something clipped out of the newspaper. The title was “It is a Christian’s Right to sing badly in church”. The point of the small article was that God knows what gifts he granted each of us, but he wants to hear all voices singing his praise. As the song says – All God’s critters have a place in the choir…and pastor – that means you TOO!!

  • Karen Says:

    As a worship leader and church musician, I feel the need to comment. I am also the widow of a pastor who was indeed a Biblical scholar who loved to preach and teach, and his sermons were always inspiring, challenging, informative, encouraging and comforting. His Bible studies were always full and I think I’ve given you an accurate picture of a man called and educated to preach the Gospel and did so for more than 40 years…..but was practically tone deaf when it came to singing. The pulpit in the last church we served together was just in front of the choir and they oh so respectfully requested that he turn his mic off during the hymns. He tried…but….was not at all gifted in this area.The “joyful noise” reference didn’t even cover this, though his attitude was upbeat and optimistic, it was also realistic about his utter inability to sing. In this case, his singing would not serve to “teach” or “lead” the congregation, but be distracting and a bit disturbing. So I must say that there are indeed exceptions re: a pastor singing or leading singing when they themselves, no matter how hard they try, cannot.

  • Christina Says:

    My Dad was a Southern Baptist pastor who served the same congregation for 39 years. I loved my Dad, but he knew (as well as all those who knew him) that his gift was not in the area of music. His calling was to “Preach Jesus” and care for the flock – which he did with all his heart. Yes, there were songs that he would sing with gusto. He would quip, “I know how to carry a tune in a bucket, but I just don’t know how to unload it.” The Lord called him home in 1998. Whenever I hear certain songs, I still hear Dad singing/humming off key. It never fails to bring tears to my eyes and a smile to my face.

  • Matthew Voyer Says:

    I am a pastor whose strengths lie in proclamation, teaching, and encouragement. I do sing with the congregation but they are also aware that it is not how God has gifted me. St. John’s did not call an ordained song leader so as I am joining my voice with those of the congregation my mic is turned off.

  • Kenny Lamm Says:

    Thanks, David. I speak to this issue so often in worship training events and with pastors–it is one of my “pet peeves.” You have done a wonderful job of articulating this important issue for pastors to consider. Thanks for your continuing awesome writings to help our church leaders.

  • David Manner Says:

    Excellent follow up challenge, John. Your last sentence nails it.

  • John Hollan Says:

    Yes! Thank you, David, for an articulate and passionate letter. I an fortunate to serve alongside pastors who participate in all aspects of our corporate worship, but according to conversation after conversation with my worship leading friends, many of my colleagues are not so blessed.

    This post seems an appropriate place to offer a corollary thought: In the same way we are asking our preaching pastors to be engaged in congregational worship, we who serve the church as worship planners, worship leaders, and musicians might also consider our own responsibility to be completely engaged in the elements of worship that are not under our direct leadership, e.g., the preaching, proclamation/reading of scripture, communion, etc. I tell my worship ministry volunteers (choir, orchestra, and technicians) all the time, “You lead by how you listen; you lead by how you look; you lead from the pew, not just the platform.”

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